New Jersey ramps up targets as it looks to go big on offshore wind energy

Key Points
  • New Jersey's governor, Phil Murphy, signed the executive order on Tuesday. 
  • The offshore wind energy market in the U.S. is still relatively nascent, although a number of major projects are now in the pipeline. 
The Block Island Wind Farm, located off the coast of Block Island, RI, is pictured on Jun. 13, 2017.
David L. Ryan | Boston Globe | Getty Images

The Governor of New Jersey has signed an executive order to increase the state's target for "offshore wind-generated electricity." 

The order, which was signed by Phil Murphy Tuesday, ups the target from 3,500 megawatts (MW) by 2030 to 7,500 MW by the year 2035.

"There is no other renewable energy resource that provides us with either the electric-generation or economic-growth potential of offshore wind," Governor Murphy said in a statement.

"When we reach our goal of 7,500 megawatts, New Jersey's offshore wind infrastructure will generate electricity to power more than 3.2 million homes and meet fifty percent of our state's electric power need," he added.

In a statement issued Thursday, the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) Laura Smith Morton described the announcement from New Jersey as "a significant commitment to offshore wind-generated electricity and clean energy."

Smith Morton, who is the AWEA's senior director, policy and regulatory affairs, went on to state that the East Coast was "leading the U.S. in establishing offshore wind as the next major American energy source."

According to the International Energy Agency's Offshore Wind Outlook 2019, global investment in the offshore wind sector in 2018 was roughly $20 billion, compared to under $8 billion in 2010.

In the U.S., however, the offshore wind market is still relatively nascent. The country's first offshore wind farm, the five turbine, 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island, only commenced commercial operations in late 2016.

Major projects are in the pipeline, however. Danish firm Orsted, for instance, is developing the 120 MW Skipjack facility off the Maryland coast and the 1,100 MW Ocean Wind project off the coast of New Jersey. It's expected that the facilities will be commissioned in 2022 and 2024 respectively.

A landmark year for U.S. wind energy 

Overall, the U.S. is now home to more than 100 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy capacity, according to a recent report from the AWEA. 

The AWEA's "U.S. Wind Industry Third Quarter 2019 Market Report" states that 1,927 megawatts – a little under 2 gigawatts – of wind power capacity was commissioned in the third quarter of 2019, the highest third quarter on record for installations.

These installations pushed overall capacity above the landmark figure of 100 GW, the AWEA's report said.

In a statement sent to CNBC via email on Wednesday, Gregory Wetstone, the president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, sought to highlight the importance of wind energy to the U.S.

"If the United States is going to compete and win in the 21st century's global clean energy marketplace, ramping up our nation's wind production is going to be absolutely critical," he said. 

"Offshore wind has an important role to play as an untapped, but potentially massive, emerging market in the U.S. that can drive billions of dollars in economic investment and create tens of thousands of American jobs," he added.

In the onshore sector, this week has also seen major Italian energy firm Enel, via subsidiary Enel Green Power North America, commence construction on a 299 MW wind farm in North Dakota.

The Aurora facility is set to be completed by the end of 2020 and will produce roughly 1.3 terawatt hours per year.